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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

They tell me that America is angry. “At what,” I ask, but they won’t answer.

They tell me that they’re going to make America great again. “How,” I ask, and they give me bullshit platitudes that don’t answer my question.

They tell me that they will make Wall Street pay their fair share of taxes. I didn’t realize that streets paid taxes, and if they’re talking about the people on Wall Street who have made money by making wise investments, I have to ask, “Just because those people may be more intelligent than the rest of us, why are you going to penalize them? Will you go after everyone who has made millions because they created something or invested wisely? Or are you saying that everyone who works on Wall Street is a criminal?”

They say they will “stand up to Wall Street.” Okay, stand up…then what are you going to do? After all, Wall Street has made significant contributions to a number of campaigns.

They say that they will break up the big banks, and again, I ask, “How will you do that?” but no one seems to hear my question.

They say that they will ensure that everyone has health care, but don’t we already have an Affordable Health Care Act that needs just a bit of tweaking? Are they saying that they will throw out one plan and bring in another? Hell, it took seven Presidents attempts before we even got the one we have now.

They say that we will build a wall all along our southern border to prevent illegal aliens and drugs from coming into the country, but that border is nearly 2,000 miles long. Although the Great Wall of China is nearly twice that length, it took thousands of years to build. What if the next President doesn’t see the necessity of such a wall? Second, it seems to me that alien and drug smuggling is done more by tunnels now. How deep will the foundation be for this wall…pyramid deep?

They say, “We will take care of the veterans?” What does that mean?

They say, “We will take care of our service men? Same question.

In other words, politicians, whether in office or merely running to become a party candidate for the top job in the nation are nothing more than preying on the gullible American public. Are people in America angry? Of course, they are. I can walk into the gym on any morning during the week and find half a dozen people who are pissed off about something. Blacks are angry because they get shot by white police officers. If a black police officer kills anyone, black or white, there won’t be a hue and cry…not unless someone happens to catch the police in the act as in the case of Freddie Gray. Whites are angry because they don’t have the education to get anything but shit jobs, and they want a minimum wage that will help to make a living wage, and I can’t argue with that. Employers are angry because if they have to increase the wages, they’ll have to increase the prices. That means two things: (1) they won’t net as much money for themselves; and, (2) they will lose customers to some place that won’t raise wages.

The world is one vicious cycle after another. There is no Utopia. What there is cannot be cured by campaign slogans or vague promises. It does not matter who says what. Americans are among the most impatient people in the world. “Now” is not soon enough. Well, let me tell you something my fellow citizens; in the two-hundred and twenty-eight years since we banished the British from our shores, we have done pretty goddamned well compared to a number of other nations, and just because you can’t afford to buy an Apple watch or a Tesla motor car or send your kid to an Ivy League college, that’s your problem. It is not a problem for the nation. Own it, you dumb son-of-a-bitch. Take a little bit of responsibility for your own shortcomings.

When I coached Little League Baseball, not everyone who tried out made a team. Kids learned to live with disappointment. Today, everyone must play on a team, even if it’s the parents and not the children who wish to play. Today, kid’s lives are so programmed that if they were told, “Go out in the backyard and play until dinner is ready,” they wouldn’t have a clue about what they should do. “Here, this is called a doll; play with it.” You’d shatter their world. “What does it do? Where’s the on switch for the computer in it?” Does it walk, talk, and crawl on its belly like a reptile?” It’s a friggin’ doll, kid. Do what your grandmother did with hers. You’d expect to see the kid’s hair go up in smoke and the top of its head pop off.

Yes, of course America has problems; of course there will always be anger. We are not a perfect country, thank God. I say that because for all of our imperfections, there are always people in our country who are trying to make things better. They are not the politicians. They are the citizens of Flint, Michigan who said, “Enough is enough. We’re not going to let our kids drink water that will kill them,” and they have made enough of a stink that something is being done. They are the ranchers who have taken over the Oregon wild life refuge compound in defense of others and who claim that the government is unfairly taking their land. They are the blacks in Chicago who saw a child get shot 16 times and who refused to allow a police cover-up.  But…and that is a huge “but,” these are the same people who will listen to bullshit politicians and keep electing them to office because of their vague promises to make changes that just never seem to happen. They don’t happen and the bullshit politicians won’t accept responsibility. Oh, they blame others, but they never blame themselves…and no one holds them accountable for not delivering on their vague promises.

When a politician makes a promise, ask him or her how they will accomplish change? Ask that question five times. Each time they try to say exactly how, ask again…and again….and again…and again. Don’t allow them to get away with dismissing you or not answering. When they do that, their true character comes out, and that character says, “You are a pain in the ass and I really don’t care about you. Go away because you’re too intelligent for me, and I don’t have the answer!”

And the truth is, that is the best answer they could give.

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“In the online age, we live our lives openly and loudly rather than with dignity.” That’s a line, somewhat paraphrased from The Heist by Daniel Silva. It’s one of those novels that the pure academics would call “trash,” but which I chose to call enjoyable reading. I read these books for the very same reason that I write essays for this blog and latch hook rugs. I do these things so that I won’t kill people. Juli, on the other hand, has her knitting, crocheting, jewelry-making, silver-smithing, and reading a variety of books so that she will not join me in killing people.

While killing people may sound rather extreme, there are times when it appears to be the last recourse against stupidity and downright “assholedness” to which we are exposed on a far too regular basis. As one example, I would cite the Netflix series, “Making a Murderer,” which is based on the 2005 Wisconsin case in which Stephen Avery was convicted of killing Teresa Halbeck. The series is presented as a documentary but in such a manner as to paint Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey as the victims rather than as the killers. The result has been a White House petition signed by 300,000 to free the two men and to demand an investigation of the police department which did the legwork and prepared the case against Dassey and Avery. The series has also resulted in the prosecuting attorney receiving over 3,000 e-mails with death threats against him and his family as well as disgusting actions to be taken against his family. Let’s just take a minute to examine this: First, it’s a documentary that has a slant because it did not present all of the evidence used in the trial against the two men. Second, anyone who knows anything about how prosecutors work, particularly in murder cases, there is generally a backlog of evidence that is held back until it’s absolutely needed. This was not the case in the Avery/Dassey trial. It was laid out meticulously at trial, but not in the documentary. Third, DNA evidence, given at trial, was not given in the documentary. In other words, what the unknowing American public has signed as a petition and has used as a basis for threatening the prosecutor is a single, one-sided, prejudiced view of what really happened, Remember the old adage, “Believe nothing of what you read and only half of what you see.” It was coined, as I recall, at a time when newspapers were notorious for slanted journalism (oh, gee, and they’re not today?). In today’s world of instant news because of television and the many satellites circling our planet, we also must be cautious when we watch television news or supposed “in-depth stories” about anything. I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here and say that Netflix didn’t do its homework…or if they did due diligence on the story, they elected to sensationalize and glorify two obvious killers, and in the process, have created 303,000 people who actually believe the bullshit they have shoveled. That’s 303,000 sheep who have been told what to believe, accepted it, and have not bothered to do any of their own research; they are also 303,000 sheep who breed and who vote…scary, huh?

There are more of these sheep who believe that Donald Trump should be President because he’s telling them exactly what they want to hear. He tells us that he will keep the Muslims out of America. Does that mean that he will deport the more than 20,000 Muslim doctors in the U.S.? Does it mean that he will close the Muslim charities, including Helping Hand for Relief and Development which, in 2013 was rated as one of the top ten charities in the United States? Yet, the sheep will follow and vote for a bombastic, narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, bully who appears to believe that even when he’s wrong, he’s right. The person who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is not a dictator who can make and keep such idiotic promises as building a wall to keep the drug smugglers and emigres out of our country…and have the country from which they are coming pay for said wall. People….think. Stop listening to nonsense and begin to think for yourselves.

Donald Trump’s appeal to certain groups is understandable. After all, Congressional politicians have been using his formula for years. If you tell the people in your district what they want to hear; put their needs ahead of the needs of the country; bullshit them into believing that you can get them what they want, they will vote for you without fully knowing the difficulties of meeting their needs. Is this dishonest? Sure, but if the sheep believe what you’re shoveling at them, what the hell, it gets you back into office. Too many people vote with their hearts and not their heads.

Ours is a nation of checks and balances. Surely, everyone knows that from the Constitution. Therefore, any candidate for any office may make any kind of promise to his or her constituents. However, unless they are promises that will be approved by another branch or successfully tested by the third branch, they are just so much hot air blowin’ in the wind.

Sheep are everywhere and easily lead. It’s those of you and those of us who think independently and don’t believe everything we are told or even see, who will determine the future of America.

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Retirement is not for the faint of heart. There, I’ve said it, and if you wish, I will repeat it…oh, screw that; you can just reread the first sentence. For a while, retirement really seemed a great thing. Go places you’ve never been participate in activities you wish you had had the time to get into while you were working; actually meeting new people and learning about their lives; finding new hobbies that were extremely interesting…for a while.

I’ve said it before, and I believe it’s important to understand that retirement should not be considered as a time when one just sits on one’s proverbial butt and watch as it expands to fill the width of a chair. Retirement is a time when you should be able to do all of those things you cursed about because you couldn’t do them when that nasty thing called “work” interfered. Perhaps, it was a solid round of 18 holes that was played on weekends, but you were positive you could break 90 if only you had the chance to play a couple of times during the week. Maybe it was spending a week touring a national park but that wasn’t possible even during vacation…because you were never able to work in a full vacation. There were a thousand ideas, things you’d do when you retired; when the house was paid off; when the summer place could be put to good use without having to make a few calls to the office while you were supposed to be relaxing. Just wait until retirement. Ah, yes, the things to which you were looking forward without having to worry that someone, anyone would call and ask you your opinion on something or a request to give a couple of hours on a certain project…those would be the days.

The big day arrives and out the door you go. Maybe you think you might miss a few of the old crowd. Promises to say in touch are exchanged; sometimes they may even be kept, but really, those people only serve to remind you of the work you once did, and that’s the thing you want furthest from your mind. You get in those 18 holes every few days, but you find that it’s not as easy to walk around the course as it used to be so you get a cart. That makes the distance between holes a little shorter but the game doesn’t improve the way you thought it might. You learn from your doctor that the pain in your shoulder is a torn rotator cuff and you should probably have it repaired. That will keep you off the course for a while. You continue to do different things. Heck, the surgery means you’ll get a chance to catch up on your reading, but you need new glasses, bifocals this time, and they’re a pain in the ass to use, but you catch on…after a while.

After a few years, the summer place becomes more of a burden than a pleasure and you announce your intention to sell it. This sets up a bit of a dispute between you and the kids…who use it with their children now and who enjoy going there but not the cost of the upkeep. You offer to sell it or even give it to them, but when the chips are down, they really don’t believe it’s worth it. With luck, you sell at a profit, and hope that you can do something productive with the monies you receive, but it just goes into the bank and gets spent in other ways.

As you age in your retirement, one of you gets a diagnosis of a terminal illness. While I haven’t experienced getting kicked in the chest by a mule, it seems to me that getting that diagnosis must feel the same way…except for being longer lasting. The one who is not ill goes from being a spouse to being a care-giver, and I guarantee you, the roles are quite different. If your spouse asks to die at home and you can accommodate that request, do it; no matter what it takes, do it. If you can afford round the clock nursing care, do it. Most people I know can’t afford that, but they can afford to have someone come in one, possibly two days a week…do it. The care-giver is on duty 24/7/365. The illness consumes your live, even unto death and for years after that.

After a while, retirement becomes more of a drudge than a thing of beauty and a joy forever. You get old. Your knees – at least those that haven’t been replaced – begin to hurt like the devil. Your golf game, if that was your big desire, slows down considerably. In fact, there are days when you can hardly wait to get home and lay down. Traveling is more of a burden than a delight, and while the sights are pretty, so is that bottle of Aleve or something stronger.

In his book, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King wrote, “An old man’s body is nothing but a sack in which he carries aches and indignities.” He may have a point, but that same sack carries memories that are so beautiful as to defy some of those aches. English actress, Judy Parfitt, says, “The thing about growing old is you have to accept it – if you don’t, you’ll be as miserable as sin. You’ve got to try and find the few good things about it.” And there are good things about aging. The best of these lies in being constantly amazed at the advances that have been made in your lifetime. Technology, science, medicine, aviation, have seen remarkable advances, and yes, even golf clubs have been improved. When I look at my smart phone of today and think that it possesses more power than the computers that put men on the moon several decades back, I’m both amazed and delighted. When I see photographs depicting other galaxies with planets that are potentially capable of supporting human life as we see it daily, I’m in awe. On and on and on it goes, and in my retirement, as much as I dislike the aches and pains, the things I can no longer do, I am delighted that in the later years of retirement I can see such progress in our shrinking world.

I can only hope for one more thing before I die. If would be truly grand if Boston could get it’s Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority to go through one single year without breakdowns, delays and excuses that are somewhat akin to “The dog ate my homework!”

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It’s difficult to understand why law enforcement, city, state, and federal, as well as the President of the United States, took so long to state the obvious about San Bernadino. I just don’t comprehend what is so difficult about seeing this couple, dressed as they were, not being immediately identified as ‘terrorists.’ However you wish to slice it, this was a terrorist act. It certainly terrified the crap out of the people who were being shot and those ducking for cover. With the discovery of the ammunition and pipe bombs in the house occupied by that couple and their baby would indicate preparation for a ‘terrorist’ attack. So we’re at war. Is there anyone in the USA who doesn’t understand that? Are there actually people whose heads are stuck so far up…in the sand that they aren’t aware that Americans are considered by some people who actually live and work here, as the enemy. Take a look at Dylan Roof who thought that blacks were taking over America. Can you understand why an ignoramus like that would think such a thing? Who does he see on television when the President speaks? Who does he see when the Director of Homeland Security speaks? Granted, the kid is probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he’s probably just a wee bit prejudiced against black folks in the first place. Someone said to me the other day, “I saw a family of Muslims in traditional dress coming in the store and I didn’t panic,” as though that was a major friggin’ achievement. It’s clue time…this country is filled with all sorts of people; some came here to escape terrorism and want to live peaceful lives. Others are here but are nothing but crazy fucking assholes who are influenced by other crazy fucking assholes and who will go out and kill anybody they see who is not dressed or look exactly as they do. They do have sufficient smarts to make certain they kill at a gathering…just walking up and down the street is not going to give one maximum exposure nor maximize your kill rate…riiiight!

To top off our understanding that we are at war, we have public panic purveyors like Donald “I-can-fix-everything-but-I-won’t-tell-you-how-because-I don’t-really-know-what-to-do” Trump. I find it truly difficult to understand how this man became a billionaire. The only thing I can think of is that he bullied his way to riches; he was the loudest shouter in the room; his face got so red, his opponents thought he was going to literally explode and shit would be flying everywhere since he was so full of it, so they gave in. It’s all I can think of. He speaks such ridiculous bullshit that no one in their right minds could possibly believe what he says. And yet, what is he doing? He’s appealing to the frightened, the uninformed, people who don’t know, or care to know, understand or care to understand other cultures. These are the folks who believe that blacks eat only fried chicken and watermelon; they may see hummus in the store so that’s what “they’ eat; Asians eat only fish and seaweed or some other shit like that. They don’t know, and one who preys on their fears such as Trump becomes their hero. The media is proving to be just as gullible. Trump speaks; it’s a sound byte they have to get on the air before the competition. Don’t react; don’t cover, and see how long Trump stays in this race. The media are “feeding Seymour” and he continues to grow. If the media ignore him, Trump will be within his rights to demand an equal amount of time as is given to other candidates; that is his right. However, the minute his talk becomes inflammatory, as it has been through most of his campaign, cut off the microphone; he has overstepped his bounds.

On November 8, 2016, America will go to the polls to elect a new President. That is eleven months from this very day. Should this country, in its ultimate stupidity, elect Donald Trump, I will make every effort to move to Nova Scotia and to renounce my American citizenship. I have little doubt that the world will become a nuclear wasteland before his term of office has ended.

Lone wolf terrorists on American streets will become more identifiable and stopped as we move along in our war. At some point, they will be identified before they enter the country. ISIS or some offspring of it will continue to function in the Middle East. It is only when America says, “Enough, solve your own problems,” that we will be able to breathe easily again. If “secure the homeland” is a dirty turn of phrase, forgive me. However, I don’t want to see more gold star flags hanging in more windows than are already there. We can “preserve, protect, and defend” the United States of America by putting our own nation first and let other nations solve their own problems.

The United Nations appears to be a useless group of foreign representatives suckling at the American teat and little else. Let us move their headquarters to someplace like Belgium, Luxemburg, or Lichtenstein, and see how quickly they dissolve or get their collective acts together to solve the world’s problems. America is too rich and too developed a nation to be playing host to a bunch of spies and neer-do-wells. Is this laissez-faire attitude going to work? No, because it will never receive bi-partisan support, nor will Wall Street allow it to happen. It would be nice to give it an honest try; to attempt to make other nations wholly responsible for their actions. We can’t; we’re America. We’re the supposed 800-pound gorilla in the room. That’s why poor families raise cannon fodder and we cry crocodile tears when they’re blown to pieces. If we really cared about our young men and women, we’d be expanding our efforts to keep them out of harm’s way rather than putting them directly in its path.

We have a great many problems in our own country that are in dire need of solutions. We need solutions to our problem of poverty. We need solutions to our problem of racial injustice and profiling. We need a unified, national police force that is fully trained and fairly paid. We need to stop teaching our children to pass some damned standardized test and teach them what it means to be a citizen of this country. We need more, better trained, and again, fairly paid, teachers. We need term limits for members of Congress to weed out the do-nothings, hangers-on, and radical assholes who somehow find their way into Congressional seats every now and then. We don’t need equalization of wealth, because if you’ve got the brains and ideas, God Bless You for making the money you’ve made, but we do need workers who are paid above a poverty level to build what you’ve designed or to sell what you have made. We need equal pay for equal work. We need to stop treating women like second-class citizens by telling them what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Our problems are tremendous; they’re hard to solve and they will continue to get harder until and unless we take some positive steps to address them. However, remember this: Over half of the Pilgrims who made the voyage on the Mayflower died before a year had passed – OVER HALF – yet the rest didn’t just lay down and die. Seventy-five thousand colonists died in the Revolutionary War; that’s 1 in 20 what we now call Americans. Yet, the men who signed the Constitution didn’t give up and say, “Screw this; take it back England.” No, the problems of their day were no more or less complex than the problems we face today. Sure, the world’s a smaller place, and the problems are terrifying. Problems of the magnitude facing the Pilgrims and the colonials and that guy who lives down the street from you today are daunting, but they can be solved. That’s our job – yours and mine – to chip in and ask what we can do to help solve those problems. No, I won’t give you the Jack Kennedy tag line; you can do that for yourself. I will say a couple of things: “If you see something, say something,” and “Don’t listen to fear-mongers and loud mouthed know-nothings like Donald Trump, because he’s not worth your time.”

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“It should be the duty of society to take care of the very young and the very old.” Fella said that some years ago. Can’t recall who he was or even where I first heard it, but it seems like reasonably good advice, should anyone care to ask me. You take care of the very young because you never know which one, if any of them, might grow up to find the ultimate cure for disease or discover another earth-like planet that can be colonized, or perhaps even find a method for eliminating those horrible traffic jams that many, many, too many people face every day they head off to work. As far as the elderly are concerned, it’s something like “they’ve served their time in hell,” and rather than just discarding them, we should reward them, not only for surviving, but for the contributions they may have made and for the ability to tell us what mistakes we made in the past…so we won’t repeat them…which we will anyway.

Awful lot of people out there who don’t agree with any of what I say, and there are too damned many of them who don’t believe we – society, that is – have any responsibility for caring for either group. “Screw ‘em,” they say. “It’s your own damned fault for bringing a kid into this world, and if you can’t raise that kid and take care of it, tough tomatoes; that’s your problem.” As far as the elderly are concerned, there is that group that would just as soon put them on an ice floe and let it drift until it melts. I think you might be a bit surprised at just how uncompassionate – or dispassionate; take your choice – some of our fellow citizens can actually be when any part of their own normalcy is threatened. It’s not unlike those folks they used to show on television; they called them “doomsday preppers” or something like that. They were prepared to take care of their own and would shoot to kill anyone who asked for help…nice folks.

Don’t get me wrong; if someone behaves like Red Skelton’s old hobo, Freddy the Freeloader, and is unwilling to make any contribution to society, I don’t believe society has any responsibility to take care of them. Maybe I’m starting to sound a bit like Rodney King and his, “Why can’t we all just get along,” but in truth, that’s not such a bad idea. In a Utopian society we could do that, but the earth is not populated by Utopians. It’s populated by so much fragmentation, so much anger, so much hate, and yes, so much love that I begin to wonder if the inmates have finally taken over the asylum.

I read a piece recently that said people in the Scandinavian countries are a great deal happier and satisfied than people in the United States. Of course they have fewer people, higher taxes, higher cost of living, and a few more troubles than we have so I don’t really believe that they are a hell of a lot happier. Someone living in San Diego reads that and they’d probably laugh out loud…”How the hell can they be happier with the winters they have to suffer through?” It’s just further proof that surveys don’t mean crap or the while figures don’t lie, liars sure’n hell can figure.

Anyway, back to our situation with young and old. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “In 2014, 15.5 million or approximately 21 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty.” That’s an awful lot of children and a lot of poverty for a country that claims to be as rich as ours. In addition, “According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 15.3 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life. Although food insecurity is harmful to any individual, it can be particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences. Are there federal programs to feed these children under 18? Sure there are…if they’re in school. A lot of these kids aren’t in school because they don’t have shoes to wear or clothing that would be appropriate. In other words, the federal and state programs, while they work for some, aren’t working for all. We do not, as a nation, do a good enough job of identifying and jump-starting the poor in our country. Most of the folks I know don’t wish to be poor; they’re willing to work. All most of them want is what all of us ever want, and that’s a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. If our infrastructure is so fragile, maybe the poor can help to change that; let’s put them to work. I’m not talking about welfare here; there are too many slackers on the welfare rolls already…no work; no welfare. Who is going to pay for it? Damned good question. If we could make some sense of the federal and state budgets, perhaps we could cut some pork and create an infrastructure fund that would damn near cover all costs. Hell, we might even have a bond issue that would help to underwrite a program to help the poor.

So now we have cured all of the ills of the very young and the very poor. What about the elderly? “The number of older adults is projected to increase over the next decade and continue to rise in the following decade. In 2040 there will be 79.7 million older adults, more than twice as many as in 2000.  Additionally, the senior population is becoming increasingly diverse.  Between 2012 and 2030, the white population of 65 and plus is projected to increase by 54 percent compared with 125 percent for older minorities.” This could certainly be called a growing market.  People are living longer because of healthier lifestyles, advances in medicine, and just in general. Do we owe these people something or should we just abandon them? I hope that I hear a resounding, “No” to the last part of that question.

Here are some statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau that outline a few of the problems facing society with regard to the elderly:

  • In 2014, 3.0 million (9%) households with seniors age 65 and older experienced food insecurity. 1.2 million (9%) households composed of seniors living alone experienced food insecurity.
  • In 2013, 5.4 million Americans over the age of 60 were food insecure. This constitutes 9 percent of all seniors.
  • Food insecure seniors are at increased risk for chronic health conditions, even when controlling for other factors such as income:
    • 60 percent more likely to experience depression
    • 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack
    • 52 percent more likely to develop asthma
    • 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure

Yes, there are, currently, a number of federal and state services that provide meals and general care for the elderly. It is imperative that we continue to see these programs both expanded and funded to meet what is a growing societal crisis in elder care in this country. It’s predicted that the last of the Baby Boomer generation will reach retirement age by 2025…ten years hence. I cannot help but wonder if it won’t be until that year is upon us that we will decide to take action.

Yes, “It should be the duty of society to take care of the very young and the very old.”

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“I pledge my allegiance to the United States of America and to the principles of the republic on which it was founded. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty, equality, and justice for all, accepted by all and divided by none.”

Sort of screws up the traditional pledge of allegiance, doesn’t it? Sure, my pledge could use a little work, but after all, it’s only the first draft. You see, I don’t wish to pledge allegiance to any symbol, whether we agree that it represents us or not. My pledge is directly to my country, for which I am more than willing to give my last full measure of devotion.

My country is not a flag or a pennant waving in the breeze. My country is men and women and children. It is the farmer who provides me with food and drink. It is the manufacturer who has provided the materials with which my house could be built. It is the small business that I prefer to patronize, all the while knowing that I’m paying a few cents more than what I would pay in the “big box” stores. America is everyone and everything that I see and use and love and hate all in a single day.

“This is my country,” wrote Don Raye and Al Jacobs in 1940. Here I am 75 years later, still shouting it from the roof tops. “This is my country, land of my birth.” Yep, six years before that song was written, I came aboard America, and I love it as much today as I guess I must have loved it then…”greatest on earth,” and nothing has demonstrated to me that it is not. “I pledge thee my allegiance, America the bold, for this is my country, to have and to hold.” I just want to stand up and scream how great this land has been to me.

Unfortunately, America has not been great for all. We suffered through slavery and the thought that those of a different skin color weren’t deserving of the same rights. We brought shame on our nation by the manner in which we treated people who were living here long before “we” decided to move in, a shame we bear even more today because it would appear that we aren’t really repentant about the manner in which Native Americans are still treated. We would love to believe that everything in our country is okay, but as we all know, it’s not quite the case.

The America in which I grew up was simpler, far less complex and even far less diverse than it is today. I like to say that the country’s diversity has expanded exponentially while our minds have expanded arithmetically. There are some changes that we can accept with a certain degree of ease, while others cause us a certain degree of reticence. We like to believe that America was founded on Christian values. Why then, do we allow synagogues? The simple answer is “because we accept people of the Jewish faith.” In return, what have the Jewish people demanded of the Christians? The right to pray as they wish; the right to go to school where they wish; the right to raise their families as they wish. In addition, they would like us to join them in celebrating Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as holidays in our schools. In school districts where Jews outnumber Christians, no one has demanded that we fly the American flag upside down or that we replace it with the flag of Israel. Most of the Jewish people I know consider themselves Americans first but with an allegiance to Israel because it is the land where their history began.

I refuse to accept students replacing the American flag at their schools with the flag of any other country, as has been done in several areas across the Southwest. You are in America. If you wish to stay here, respect our traditions and our history. Otherwise, go back where you came from…and don’t tell me there are no jobs there or it’s too frightening. If those are reasons you came to this country, then leave the joblessness and the terror behind you and get on with your assimilation into our culture. It may be the custom in your country to dress in a manner totally different from how we dress in America. If you wish to become part of our country, learn to dress as we dress. If this is not acceptable to you, please, go back to where your mode of dress is acceptable. Worship as you will; celebrate your holidays as you will, but this is my country; get used to it.

One of the greatest attributes of this nation is its degree of tolerance. We’ve had to work at being tolerant. Ask any Irishman whose family came over on the boats. Ask any person of Chinese descent whose great grandparents had to settle for jobs that even the Irish wouldn’t accept. Ask the first Italian, or Jewish, German or Dutch, or almost any ethnic group that came over here in the 1800s. They will tell you the difficulties of becoming accepted in our country, but they worked at it and they succeeded. Today’s emigres appear to want to do as they damn well please and if Americans don’t like it, that’s just too bad.

We live in a country that, in many cases, is prouder of its heritage and accomplishments than nations that are far older but not as far advanced. Hear me well people who come here trying to change us: “This is my country! Land of my choice! This is my country! Hear my proud voice! I pledge thee my allegiance, America, the bold, For this is my country! To have and to hold.”

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It’s thirteen months before the next Presidential elections, and I’m already sick and tired of the promises being made by candidates from both sides, promises they have no intention of keeping because they don’t honestly know how. That, my friends, is a 37-word sentence, a fierce violation of the “writers’ code.” Frankly, I don’t give a damn. If the politicians can lie as blatantly as they do, I can violate a few of the inviolable rules of journalism.

What the political hacks seem to conveniently forget is exactly what Barrack Obama forgot when he assumed the Executive Office…you do not work alone in governing the United States of America. The Founding Fathers made this very clear when they proposed a system of checks and balances for each of the three branches of our government; the Legislative, Executive, and the Judicial. While it is the function of the Legislative Branch to propose and enact laws that will benefit a “great majority,” these can either be vetoed by the Executive Branch or ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Branch. The President, while he – no she yet – may bluster and bitch, he can veto what Congress sends to him for signature, ergo, he thinks he’s top gun, but Congress may override his veto. In addition, they control the purse strings, thus limiting his ability to spend monies on projects of which he may approve but which Congress does not. Oh, yes, and if they believe he has done something illegal or immoral, they can also impeach him. The judicial branch, while controlled by a systems of lower courts, is basically exempt from the checks which apply to the other two branches, and the rulings of the Supreme Court will stand until challenged by new justices.

As a result of the checks and balances that our Founding Fathers included in the Constitution, it doesn’t really matter what tripe and braggadocio is uttered by wannabee Presidential candidates. Their key attribute should be the ability to get those from their own and their opposition parties to work alongside them for the common good of the nation. This might just be a novel concept for the Executive leadership branch of government; after all, the Legislative Branch does not know how to work in any kind of harmony for the betterment of the country. I’d like you to think about that for just a moment. We have a chief executive who, when he doesn’t get his own way with the Legislative Branch, attempts to go around them through executive action rather than work with them to determine what they see as the problem with what he is attempting to achieve. (You may have to read that sentence a couple of times, but you understand what I’m saying, don’t you…sure, I thought you did.)  On the other hand, as you may have read in The Selling of America, we have a Legislative Branch that is so torn apart internally that it cannot even decide on the correct time of day or whether or not the sky is blue! Meanwhile, back in Kentucky, a clerk is telling the Supreme Court to go straight to hell, because she doesn’t care about the laws of America; she’s a law unto herself. The Founding Fathers knew that governing wouldn’t be easy, but I’m not so certain they ever envisioned anything quite as tragically comical as what we are seeing in the early part of the 21st Century. Where the hell is common sense when we need it…yep, you’re right; common sense truly is not all that common.

This is why I am already sick and tired of the banalities of these people who believe they are qualified to lead the United States of America. Here is a question that I would like to ask each of the candidates: “how can you be so certain that you are qualified to run the nation?” They would, no doubt, begin to respond immediately and I would interrupt by saying “SHADDUP FOOL!” as loudly as possible. If they continued to speak, I would have them ejected from wherever our meeting was taking place. If you don’t have to stop and think, think, think about the questioning of your own abilities, say nothing until you can speak with genuine authority. I could take each candidate currently in the running and dissect them piece by piece but then this essay would go on forever. Let me just say that governing a state does not qualify you to govern a nation, no matter how successful you were in doing so. Being in Congress most assuredly does not qualify you to be the chief executive of the United States. Having been a business person who achieved a modicum of success hardly qualifies you to the pressures that you will feel when you enter the Oval Office. Let’s see, have I left any area uncovered? Nope, don’t think so. To me, the best person to run the country is the one who has all sorts of reservations about his or her ability to do so, but who is willing to put forth a best effort to keep the nation growing, to reduce the national debt; to keep our country free from attack by foreign powers or individuals who would attempt to destroy us, and who is actually willing to sacrifice his or her life to do these things and so many, many more. Show me that person, the one who is free from bluster and bullcrap, who is willing to work with and/or around the idiots currently occupying the halls of Congress like a goddamned childish sit in, and who can demonstrate openly the ‘how’ of their plan, and that my friends is the person who gets my vote. The saddest thing of all is that that person has yet to come forward. Because of that, I fear greatly for the future of my nation.

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An acquaintance of mine teaches philosophy at a private secondary school…and has for more years than he cares to count. Let’s examine that sentence for just a minute: I use the word, “acquaintance,” because (a) I learned to spell it sometime ago and it’s a nice word; (b) (I cannot call him a friend because I have never been to his home for dinner nor he to mine; and, (c) I know him on only the level of quick and short discussions in a single environment, ie, the gym. Do those last two ‘answers’ mean that I don’t really know him at all? Yeah, it really does mean something like that. It’s the same with these little essays that I write for the blog…when it comes right down to it, I’m writing for me; it’s an exercise in egocentricity. I don’t know the people who read them…well, that’s not entirely true; a few people I sort of know have read them, sometimes even commented on them…anyway, let’s move along.

My philosopher-acquaintance from the gym enjoys reading when he is doing his cardiovascular workout. Invariably, the titles of the books he reads are so esoteric as to boggle my [unwarranted assumption here] mind. As a consequence, I have begun to read a few articles and lessons about philosophy online. Frankly, some of it is fascinating; some of it is also as boring as watching paint dry, grass grow, or whatever other little cliché you want to throw out. The one thing it did make perfectly clear to me, however, is that I write for myself because I haven’t the foggiest idea about the people for whom I thought I was writing.

There is great wonder in reading philosophy. I have learned through reading that, “We become philosophers ourselves whenever we ask the fundamental questions and genuinely demand they be answered. One becomes a philosopher when one loves the truth.” If you’ve ever searched for it you know how difficulty the truth is to find. It’s been my experience through my life that people are more inclined to tell either half-truths or outright lies. “Yes, that will be ready tomorrow;” yet, tomorrow never seems to come. “What you do for us is very important.” Really, if it’s so damned important why don’t you say thank you more often rather than finding ways to criticize what I do behind my back? It’s truly amazing how the truth manages to get back to those who are honestly seeking it.

I invite you to consider what truths you have sought and the bullshit that you’ve been handed in place of it. What questions have you asked for which you have never received honest and truthful answers? Oh, certainly, some answers appear reasonable enough, but is reasonable the truth? Are you satisfied with ‘reasonable?’ Then, of course, we must ask the question, “Why won’t someone tell us the truth; give us a completely truthful answer?” Are they trying to protect us from the truth? Are they fearful that the truth, once spoken, will create an irreparable schism from which neither of us can ever recover? “You can’t handle the truth,” is not an answer either. A friend of mine flew helicopters in Vietnam. When he came home, he was staggered by the lies that appeared in the newspapers. “Our casualty rates are far beyond what they’re saying,” he told me, and then asked, “Why do they have to lie?” The truthful answer to his question would probably be somewhere along the lines of, “Because they’re afraid of the rioting that would occur and the potential for the government to be torn apart.” Is that true? I don’t know, but it certainly would have helped to build the numbers of folks who wanted us to get the hell out of Nam without any more loss of life.

The more I read the more confused I become about philosophy and its teachings. “Philosophy is a quest,” I read. “It is the movement of thought seeking to attain the encompassing. It is intelligence being raised above any kind of fragmentary thinking.  It is in philosophy that all the fragmented aspects of knowledge are integrated.  This is the reason philosophy does not neglect anything.  In philosophy we speak of everything since all things have their place and meaning there.

“More deeply, philosophy would become meaningless should it degenerate into a rigid and dogmatic system.  Philosophy is the friend of wisdom.  It carries within itself the love of a just and moderate life, of a human knowledge which is integrated to life.  Hence we say that philosophy is a reflection on all forms of human experience.”

My readings in philosophy have discovered one thing: My mind has become too rigid, too inflexible to become part of a discussion on philosophy. I will attempt to continue to tell the truth; I will continue to seek as much wisdom as I can in the areas where I wish to seek wisdom; I will disregard those who attempt to involve me in their searches for their wisdom, and; I will continue to write about things in which I have some opinion…opinion…hmm, does that mean truth?

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So, Dylann Roof was afraid that black people were taking over the world. Well, maybe that’s just not such a bad thing after all. I can hear the screams now…”Are you out of your friggin’ mind?” “Oh, come on, you can’t be serious!” “Didn’t you see all of those shootings in Dorchester and who committed them?” “Yeah, right, and all those black gangs would be taking over our neighborhoods and killing all the white people; that’s what would happen you idiot.”

Yep, possibly true. But why is it true? It’s true because a minority of the minority make all of the headlines because of their actions. I have seen the riots; I have seen the black banners; I have heard the yelling and screaming, and; I have seen the way in which we ‘educated’ whites have treated “uppity n___as” for over 200 years.

Despite all of our legislation; despite all of our efforts to integrate blacks and whites, nothing seems to be working. In one of the most advanced civilizations in history, we cannot overcome something as seemingly simple as two races living together in some kind of harmony. Even when we elected a black president, there was sufficient racism in the legislative branch – and other branches – to stop any kind of progress from being made. Anyone who tries to tell me that racism isn’t behind the gridlock in Washington is a goddamned liar! “We won’t let him get anything passed in the House.” Those are as close to an exact quote as I can remember from one Representative. “Him,” the word was “him,” and who was “he?” He was the first black President of the United States.

America was not ready to accept anything other than a white person for the Presidency. It is doubtful that America will ever be ready for anything but a white presidency. It’s too ingrained in us over our two hundred plus year history to accept anything else. We are creatures of habit; we are NIMBY’s such as there has never been. We talk of how we have advanced our civilization by trying new things, and that’s true, we have. But we sure as hell don’t want to disturb the status quo when it comes to the who of how we govern. Someone said to me, “When the Obama’s leave the White House, they’ll take all the china and silverware.” The person was only half joking. Why? Because that is the impression too many of us have of men and women in the black community. Wait a minute; who gambled away the White House china? Why it was President Warren G. Harding. How many alcoholic white presidents have we had? Too goddamned many. How many wheeler-dealer crooks have we had in the White House? Too goddamned many.

I have no sympathy for Dylann Roof; don’t get me wrong. Certainly, trying to start a race war is not the answer to bringing this country together. He deserves to pay the ultimate price for his actions. My gut feeling is that if he has already confessed to these murders, there is no reason for a trial. “That’s not the American way!” Bullshit…why isn’t it the American way? Why waste time and money to satisfy the blood lust that the media will create over this senseless and heinous act? The same should have been true with the Marathon bomber, the theatre killer, the one who shot Gabby Gifford and others, as well as Edward Hinckley. You did it; we saw you; you pay for your actions in the same manner as your actions. Within 24 hours of your capture, you are on your knees with two shots behind the ear. “Oh, my God, how brutal; how you can even think such a thing; this isn’t China where they do that. This is America; we’re not savages@” Oh, really, what would you call the people I’ve listed above…preachers of God?

Over the past 15 years I’ve watched this country begin to come apart at the seams. Statisticians tell us that crime is going down…and we’re supposed to believe their bullshit! The FBI, the Justice Department, this one and that one tell us how we’re better off than we were a couple of decades ago. Guess what, I don’t believe them. I think they are covering their butts and lying to us. Perhaps it’s because when something like Charleston or Newtown happen, it makes a big splash. Perhaps the media is doing a “better” job of covering the sexual assaults that are taking place on our city and suburban sidewalks and homes. I don’t know what it is, but things sure look pretty fucked up to me.

So what are we looking at for the future? Dylann Roof will go on trial, be convicted and when his execution date comes – somewhere in the next 10 years because of all the automatic appeals – the whole thing will be rehashed and America will once more be told that we cannot tolerate this kind of behavior, the population will be up in arms once more. Will any action have been taken to sort out the potential Dylann Roof’s in our society? No! Will any action have been taken in an attempt to control who and how guns are distributed? No. Will the NRA still own Congress? Yes. Will people still be going on rampages of killing children, classmates, adults of all colors? Yes.

Do I have reasonable solutions to all of these problems? No, not to all of them, but I have a few thoughts:

  • Any member of Congress who takes money from any lobby should be immediately ousted from his or her seat in that law-making body.
  • Members of the House of Representatives should not be allowed to serve any more than six terms. If they cannot get the job done in twelve years, it’s time to go.
  • Senators should be allow to serve two terms in office. Once more, twelve years in Congress is quite enough.
  • Certain lobbies are so powerful that they should be disbanded in some way, shape, or form. These include the tobacco, public utilities, pharmaceutical, gun advocacy, and several other vote-buying bastards who serve no useful purpose in our government.
  • Certainly our jails are overcrowded. We do not possess the laws to discourage crime. Opponents of the death penalty maintain that the threat of such punishment is not a deterrent, and they may well be right. However, have we ever really tested this? One execution every ten or twelve years is not testing. Executions every day for a couple of months might get a few bad guys to change their minds about committing a serious crime.
  • The Second Amendment, at least to me, means that if you own a gun, you do so to protect yourself and your home and that you are a part of a militia to guard the country. Fine, let’s put you to the test. If you voluntarily purchase or possess a gun, you will be trained and sent to wherever the United States is engaged in a ‘police action,’ or whatever we’re calling our conflicts these days. You will serve one year in a front line unit. If you survive, you will be allowed to keep your weapon when you return. However, you will not be allowed to keep an automatic weapon or more than 100 rounds of ammunition.

These are very rough plans and will have to be worked out…by whom? Aha, therein lies the rub. Who creates and who enforces these rules and regulations? Won’t be me; I plan to be dead. Good luck, America; you’re going to need it!

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“They” said that Jack Kennedy could never be elected President of the United States because he was a Roman Catholic.

“They” said that Madeleine Albright would never be confirmed as the first woman to hold the position of Secretary of State.

“They” said that a Black man would never be elected to the highest office in the United States Government.

“They” sort of screwed up, didn’t “they?”

The Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, says that he is against discrimination of any kind and yet, he signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which the proponents of the act maintain is exactly the intent of the law.

“They,” in this case the Indiana legislature didn’t screw up; they screwed the Governor…and he’s a member of their own party. While he is now trying to backpedal on what he signed, the conservative Republicans in his state are going, “Yeah, baby, now we can nail those damned ‘queers,’ faggots,’ ‘lesbian bitches,’ etcetera, ad nauseum, and get ‘em to  hell out of our beautiful state.” This, my friends, is an absolutely perfect example of American bigotry. “Who are these bigots?” you ask. Well, let’s start with Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana. According to one source, “Clark has been publicly advocating for the bill as a means for allowing anti-LGBT discrimination since December, long before the legislation was even drafted. This directly contradicts the claims made Monday by House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) and Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R) that the legislation never had anything to do with discrimination.”

Are “they” doing the same thing in other states? Well, yes and no. Nineteen other states have similar laws but none go as far as the RFRA in Indiana goes. My question is a simple one when it comes to all of these acts: “What ever happened to the concept of “separation of church and state.” The states won’t interfere with religion and religion won’t interfere with the state. The laws that have now been passed in 20 states – and Arkansas may become number 21 – are nothing more than the last gasp of anti-LGBT politicians who are unwilling to attack real problems and have to satisfy themselves by going after a minority group. Can you say, “Raus Juden..unt off to the camps!” These are the signs of a fading empire.

Will “they” convince the US Congress to take a hard look at the bill that President Clinton signed in 1993 and attempt to rewrite that to include this anti-gay verbiage? There are enough crazy conservatives in both Houses now that it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. We are being laughed at world-wide for our stupidity and this whole Religious Freedom Restoration Act is merely adding fuel to the fire of laughter that can be heard in the camps of both our friends and our enemies.

Meanwhile, America has sent its Secretary of State to Switzerland to try to work out a deal with Iran not to proceed with making nuclear weapons. Secretary Kerry is a very intelligent man; however, he could better be using his time training for the Pan Mass Challenge which he has ridden “religiously” (oops, bad word) for a number of years or sitting in his house in Louisburg Square watching the Final Four. Attempting to negotiate anything with a Middle Eastern country – Israel included – is like trying to argue with a five-year-old screaming child…you will not; you cannot win, whether by reason or force, because they are not listening. They will do what they want to do and you cannot stop them. Sanctions mean nothing to them. “They” are sitting on the other side of the negotiating table attempting to keep from bursting out laughing at your ridiculous posturing. Would Iran like to be a player on the world’s economic stage? Sure, but it doesn’t matter; they’ll get there. They’ll play the little game that the Americans’ want them to play while back home they’re moving ahead with everything they want to do. Middle Easterners have very, very long memories. They have been around far longer than America. It may take a little more time – maybe a Century or three or four – but they’ll get what they want. Meanwhile, they’ll just sit back and watch the further decline of America as a world force because we’re too stupid to recognize the games they play. Come on home, Mr. Secretary; you’re wasting your time. Come on home and see what can be done in our own country, because at the rate we’re going and the people we have in positions of political and industrial power, we are in one hell of a lot of trouble.

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